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DISSIDENT MONK RELEASED AFTER 18 YEARS

A monk who was jailed for publishing literature critical of China's occupation of Tibet has finally been released after 18 years, reports PEN American Center. Ngawang Phulchung, a senior monk in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa and an honorary member of PEN, was released on 29 October, six months before his sentence was due to expire.

"We are pleased and relieved that the Chinese government has taken the important step of releasing Ngawang Phulchung from prison, though of course under international law he should never have been there in the first place," says PEN.

Phulchung was one of the leaders of the "Group of 10", or Drepung printing group, a publishing collective formed after peaceful demonstrations were violently suppressed by Chinese authorities in September 1987. Their publications included a Tibetan translation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and "The Meaning of the Precious Democratic Constitution of Tibet", a manifesto calling for a democratic system based on Buddhist tradition.

Phulchung is currently with his family, but is in poor health due to the torture and inhumane treatment he suffered in prison, says PEN. PEN remains concerned for his health, for the continued imprisonment of dozens of other writers across China and the Tibet Autonomous Region, and about the state of media freedom in China in the lead-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Visit these links:
- PEN American Center: http://tinyurl.com/ypmxjm
- PEN on Phulchung and another 45 writers jailed in China: http://www.pen.org/caselist.pdf
- PEN on Beijing Olympics: http://tinyurl.com/yqaenf
(6 November 2007)

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